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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 9, 2014 10:00am-12:01pm EST

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approval. now to live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, creator of the universe, create hearts within our senators that will make them strong enough to know when they are weak. give them sufficient bravery to choose the more difficult right. lord, inspire them to be
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gracious in tkwepbt and humble in victory. give them enough integrity to face themselves when they are afraid, as they remember that perfect love destroys trepidation. teach them, o god, how to stand up in the storm with complete confidence in the ultimate triumph of truth. we pray in your majestic name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic
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for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., january 9, 2014. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable brian e. schatz, a senator from the state of hawaii, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. reid: following my remarks and those of the republican leader we'll be in a period of morning business with the time until noon divided equally. the republicans will control the first 30 minutes and we'll control the second 30 minutes. at none all postcloture time on the motion to proceed to the unemployment insurance extension will expire and the senate will begin consideration of the bill.
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senators will be notified when votes are scheduled. mr. president, another day has passed and we still have a vast majority of republicans standing in the way of extension of unemployment benefits. some republican senators are having conversations about possible offsets for a full year extension. i've said a number of times i think we would be ill-advised to have another short-term. if we're going to have an extension they're talking about paying for it, let's do in a -- for a year. mr. president, let's see how they want to pay for this. we've heard proposals. the proposals are, one, to stop people from having health care. the other is to go after children, the earned-income tax
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credit, american boys and girls. it doesn't sound like a good one to me. then we have a suggestion proposed by a senator late last night, if you really look at it, it is not worth $5 billion. it is much less than that. to do what has been suggested by one republican senator would be to devastate the disabled, and that wouldn't be appropriate. so i would be interested if there are other proposals. as i've indicated on a number of occasions, i continue to say offsetting the cost of emergency unemployment benefits is not something i agree with. president bush extended emergency unemployment insurance five times. not one of these five times was there a whimper from our republican colleagues and
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certainly democrat senators here that it should be paid for. it is not right to offset the cost when bush was president, not right to do it now that obamacare is in the white house. we've cut the deficit in half and deficit reduction is even more transparent. almost $3 trillion. while we must keep up our good work, we have more to do. we must solve the nation's jobs crisis if we ever thoep solve fiscal problems. today's long-term unemployment rate is more than double what it was at any time congress let emergency job stance expire. some republican senators are insisting the cost be offset, i'm happy to talk, as we all are on this side of the aisle about a long term extension for
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employee unemployment benefits. it's been a week since families were kicked off of unemployment insurance benefits. think about this, mr. president. people who have been out of work for month after month after month learned at the beginning of this year they wouldn't get $300 a week. now remember, this is not charity. it's not something that these people don't have -- first of all, they have to lose their job through no fault of their own. then this have out every week and look for a job. for every job that is available in america today, there are three people looking for that job. i was stunned when i had my news briefing this morning when one republican senator said there are so many jobs that are unfilled in america today.
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let these people go get those jobs. try that one on for size. mr. president, for many the benefits were the only thing to keep this from descending into poverty or becoming homeless. hundreds of thousands of kherpb as a result -- thousands of children as a result of these benefits have been stopped from going into the rolls of the poor. these families can't wait any longer for relief. i'm optimistic my republican colleagues will help us to find a way out of this, but yesterday, mr. president, house republican leaders were forced to send -- i said yesterday. it was actually tuesday. republican leaders were forced to send a message to their members, be compassionate. and then of course the memo came over here. kahn emergency having to remind senators to be compassionate of
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people who have been long-term unemployed? yesterday afternoon the republican leader spoke in this chamber for a long time, 45 minutes. not once during this discussion were the words jobs, the economy or unemployment mention.ed. not once. middle-class americans are hurting. we know the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is being squeezed. during the last 30 years middle encloses have lost 10% of their earning that they had 30 years previously whereas the same top 1% sraod -- top 1% have had
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their income and wealth triple. these people who are struggling out there, madam president, are doing it with two jobs. some are trying to do it with three jobs just trying to get by. what beleagured americans need is not a memo on basic human decency or a bitter diatribe about the rules of the senate. they need solutions. for 1.3 million americans today and 5 million americans over the course of this year extending emergency employment benefits is a solution, raising a minimum wage so more or father working can afford the rent and an electrical bill in the same.
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whenever my republican colleagues are prepared to stop complaining and start working with democrats to create solutions, we'll be right here waiting. mr. president, before my friend, the republican leader, mace his remarks, i would consent that the people for morning business be extended until 12:30 today with senators be permitted up to ten minutes each. further that the senate recess from 2:15 until 2:15 and the previous motion with respect to 1845 be modified so the postcloture time be considered expired at twist rather than --t 2:15 rather than the earlier time i mentioned. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: for months the democrats who run washington have been desperate to distract from the pain of obamacare. and now if you listen to them, they think they found something that might work for them. the one thing that can actually distract folks from the misery of this law is the misery of this economic malaise they have presided over. it takes a lot of chutzpah to spend an entire presidential term modifying policies hope to benefit the little guy. but chutzpah won't solve the problem and the failed stimulus ideas we've seen democrats trot out thus far, they won't do much
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to improve the plight of millions of americans struggling in today's economy. to me, that's the real tragedy because a discussion about how to help americans who battle against the odds, day after day, that a a conversations we actually should be having. in fact, it's a debate republicans are having. in recent days we've seen several leading republicans talk about how to tackle poverty in the 21st century. unlike the democrats' outdated ideas from back in the 1960. republicans are thinking about ways to update our nation's approach with fresh proposals which speak to the situation americans actually find themselves in today. not back in the 1960's. the republican approach is to learn from past mistakes. it's about turning the left's good intentions tphaol -- into
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policies that can get the job done and it is moving beyond the treatment of symptoms and getting at the underlying problems. that is the thinking bipartisan economic freedom zones act which senator paul and i introduced. it aims to shine a light into some of the most i am' richard corners of our -- impoverished corners of our country, raise up families and cities who have been left behind and sometimes literally crushed by the outdated ideas from the 1960's. and to do that, to actually do that in a way that lasts. with this legislation, some of the most disadvantaged areas of our country would acquire the ability to apply for economic freedom zone status that would help lift the burden of some of the poorest families in our country. small business owners would see fewer government regulations enabling them to create jobs and
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drive a prosperity. entrepreneurs would see punitive tax barriers peel back, allowing them to lead a recovery with new ideas and new energy. failed educational systems would see reforms that lift up disadvantaged children, giving new hope to a younger generation. cities and regions that face a dark future could transform themselves if they choose almost instantly into magnets for new ideas and for new hope. if our democratic colleagues are serious about their focus on economic distress, if it's more than some poll-tested obamacare distraction, i would invite them to work with us on innovative new approaches like this. this could allow the senate, for instance, to consider our proposal as an amendment to the unemployment insurance legislation currently on the floor. because this is a discussion that needs to be about really
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helping people. and these economic freedom zones are similar in some ways to the promises on initiative recently developed by the obama administration. i was pleased to hear eight counties in eastern kentucky will soon received promised zone legislation. that is why i wrote in support of granting this designation last year because there is no doubt that eastern kentucky is a region that has suffered enormous hardship in recent years much of it, much of it unfortunately related to the very same obama's administration on war on coal phaepls. but the promise zone designation is a step in the right direction. senator paul and i will be heading to the white house late today for a promised zone event because we're encouraged that the president is finally, finally focused on a concrete approach to jobs that members of both parties can support, proving that we can accomplish
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things when we focus on real efrpts rather -- efforts rathern political showboats that are designed to fail. promise zones are something we can build on with far more comprehensive efforts that will reach more communities in netted of revial disailings. let's remember this: government programs can sometimes help but they can't do everything. and in the 1960's mind-set about how to fight poverty it needs to change to fit the realities of the 21st century. i want to share a sentiment i read just yesterday from thomas vincent, an unemployed coal worker from the very kentucky county where l.b.j. launched his big-government blitz 50 years ago. this was his take on the so-called war on poverty. "what good are all these government programs if they don't get you a job? it's a feeling," the article
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noted, that's widespread among his neighbors in martin county. this is why republicans say it is time for modernization and new approaches. it is time to give folks like thomas real hope. it is time to give them more than just good intentions. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 12:00 noon with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each, and with the time equally divided and controlled by the two leaders or their designees with the republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the majority controlling the next 30 minutes.
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mr. thune: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, is ride today to discuss amendment 2622 that i have filed to the solutions to long-term unemployment act that is before the senate today. mr. president, the bill before the senate today would extend unemployment -- emergency unemployment benefits for the 13th time since 2008. let me repeat that. congress has enacted or extended emergency unemployment benefits 13 times over the past five years, and at some point you have to start asking yourself, mr. president, at what point does this no longer become an emergency but it becomes permanent? we've been doing this mao for fiv--we've been doing this now r five years. there are people who are still hurting but what i think -- what
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it should say sa us to is iters time we started treating not just the symptom but fixing the problem that we have in america today. the problem that we have, mr. president, is we've got a sluggish economy that continues to sort of stumble along. we have a chronically high unemployment rate with lots of people who have been employed for -- unemployed nor a very long period of time. over that same period, congress has pushed through obamacare, raised taxes on job creators, while the administration has pursued aggressive regulations that have done little -- little more than drive up costs for many of our small businesses. after 1 extensions o 3 extensioe result? today over 37% of the unemployed americans have still been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
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that represents over 4 million men and women who have been most impacted by president obama's failed economic policies. so, mr. president, i applaud my colleagues on the republican side of the aisle who have offered up commonsense, even bipartisan ideas to pay for the extension of emergency unemployment benefits. if we extend these benefits once again, i'm hopeful that we can find an appropriate way to pay for this extension and not pass the bill on to our children and grandchildren. however, mr. president, i also have trough come t to come to ty to challenge awful my colleagues to lack at solutions to the underlying problem. rather than simply treating the symptoms of long-term unemployment for yet the 13thtime time. the imlundthe underlying problet we have 4 million americans who have been inautomobile to find worwork on account of the obama economy.
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my amendment addresses the underlying problem of long-term unimhoiment by reducing labor costs, increasing worker mobility, and strengthening federal worker training programs. first, my amendment would provide much-needed relief from obamacare for any employer who hires an individual who's been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. as we all know, obamacare is full of additional costs mandates that are stifling economic growth. the obamacare employer mandate arguably has the greatest impact on an already weak labor market. the impact of this mandate is so great that the administration is unilaterally -- has unilaterally delayed it until after the next election. younder this mandate, a business with 50 or more employees must provide insurance or pay a penalty. for a small- or medium-sized business that's a significant deterrent to expanding and hiring more workers. under my amendment, if a business decides to hire someone who's been out of work for 27
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weeks or longer, that person would be exempt from the obamacare mandate for as long as he or she works at that business. second, my amendment would further reduce labor costs by providing a six-month payroll tax holiday for any employer who hires a long-term unemployed worker. employers currently pay a payroll tax of 6.2% of an employee's wairnlings up to a capped amount known as the social security wage base. waiving this tax is an incentive for employers to hire those out of the labor force for an extended period of time. consider a job that's paying an annual wage of $47,000. the payroll tax in my amendment represents a $1,240 incentive for the employer to hire a long-term unemployed individual. or take a higher-skilled job paying $80,000 annually.
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the payroll tax holiday represents a incentive for the employer to hire someone unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. when coupled with the obamacare exemption in my amendment, that's an incentive of roughly $5,000 to hire an individual who's been unemployed for an extended period of time. third, mr. president, my amendment addresses a fundamental problem facing the long-term unemployed by providing relocation services. while the national labor market remains weak, there are pockets of prosperity across the country. in my home state of south dakota, we have an unemployment rate of 3.6%. that's second only to our neighbors of north dakota who are fully embracing the energy renaissance, which is occurring in the upper great plains and other parts of the country. so because of south dakota's low tax and regulatory framework, it consistently makes us one of the best placings in the united states to start and grow a
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business. in fact, one of the biggest issues we hear from prospective business investors is the concern that they're not going to have enough workers if they decide to move to my state. you've got other parts of the nation that continue to struggle with high unemployment rates. rhode island it is 9%. the number of job openings and higher rates vary from region to region as well. this past summer the rate of job openings in the south was 20% greater than in the northeast. the same trend exists for hiring rates between those two regions. part of a dynamic 21st century economy is ensuring a mobile workforce that request meet regional demand for good-paying jobs. if you have got someone who's been living off of up employment benefit for the past six months, that person does not have the resources to move to a new state or a new job. my amendment would provide a low-interest loan of up to $10,000 for anyone willing to
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relocate for a new job or move to a new state with better employment opportunities. these loans would have to be repaid within ten years but no payments would be required for one year while that individual or family gets back on their feet. additionally, if the new job is eliminated within one year, flew no fault of the employee, the loan could be forgiven. my amendment would strengthening and streamline federal worker training programs. we currently have over 50 federal training programs across nine federal bureaucracies. it is a broken morass of programs that isn't helping employers or employees, and it certainly isn't an efficient use of taxpayer dollars. even president obama in his 2012 state of the union speech said, that he wanted to "cut through the maze of confusing job training programs and create one program for workers to find the help that they need."
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like many of the president's promises, that turned out to be more talk than action. while the president has failed to put afford a real plan to he radio form our worker training programs, the republican-led house of representatives has acted. the house-passed skills act includes reforms that ensure workers receive the training they need for positions that businesses need filled today. the skills act would consolidate 35 redundant and ineffective federal worker programs into a single worker fund that would serve as a single source of support for workers and job seek irrelevance at th--and job seeke level. the skills act cuts through red tape and eliminates barriers that oftentimes keep workers from receiving the training they need when they need it. for too long we have been
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throwing taxpayer dollars at a maze of overlapping bureaucracies when we should be providing more targeted assistance droll job seekers. we need to be training our workers for the high-tech jobs of today and the jobs that will continue to be in demand in the future. the skills act accomplishes these goals, which is why i included it in my amendment to help the implunge's long-term unemployed find work in taisdz economy. mr. president, there is no one solution to helping the unemployed. however, one thing is clear. we need to find ways to make it more attractive for employers to invest and hire workers rather than constantly pushing legislation that will raise the cost of doing business. let's think about the bills the democratic majority supports or supported in the past. obamacare raised the cost of
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labor. it drove up premiums for millions of americans and made it more expensive for gloirs hire. raising the minimum wage will raise the cost of hiring new employees and only worsen the job prospects for the long-term unemployed. the tax increases pushed by democrats here in the senate and the white house apply to millions of small business owners which discourage business investment and job growth. new environmental regulations are driving up the cost of energy and therefore the cost of doing business in this u countr. i'm not suggesting that the provisions in my amendment are the only way to make it more economical for employers to hire more workers. but i am suggesting that if we want more employment, we need to make it less costly, not more costly, to hire each additional employee. and it seems that nearly every policy pursued by the democratic majority and the white house would raise costs on businesses,
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especially those small businesses which create the majority of jobs in this country. mr. president, we've tried the apreach of bigger -- apropose of bigger government, higher regulations for the last five years and it has not worked. let's try something different. let's have a real debate about how we lower costs maindle it easeiers for employers to go out and hire new employees. mr. president, let's focus our efforts on those who need the most help, such as those americans who've been out of work the longest on account of the lagging obama commitment of mr. president, i hope that this amendment as well as others that my colleagues will offer have an opportunity to be heard here on the floor of the senate and voted on. what we have going on here in terms of a process doesn't resemble anything like an open process that should allow us to openly debate the big issues that affect the american people. and this is a pocketbook issue. this strikes at the very heart of the quality of life, the
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standard of living, the future economic well-being of americans all across this country. and i hope -- certainly hope that the majority leader will allow for an open process that will enable us to enter into that debate, to put afford proposals, mine among many oh, that could be considered here and voted on, that would actually improve the overall situation of middle-class men's. it is high time we had that debate. i hope we can and i hope the majority will give us that opportunity. mr. president, i yield the floor.. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, before i make my remarks, i want to commend the senator from south dakota and underscore what the senator said regarding the skills act passed by the house of representatives. i'm on the health education labor and pensions subcommittee. six years ago the act expired in its authorization and for six years it languished in the
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bowels and in the heart of the united states senate and in the united states senate house of representatives going unauthorized. between 2008 and today america has experienced terrible unemployment, terrible job loss, terrible increases in unemployment and extensions of that unemployment. the gentleman from south carolina is exactly correct, if we were doing our job and just reauthorizing the programs in the law today like the workforce investment act and training people for the skills of the 21st century and the jobs of the 21st century we wouldn't be talking about unemployment compensation. we wouldn't be talking about the great tragedies of america. we would be talking about america's greatest prosperity. i want to commend the senator from south dakota for pointing out what is critical for us to recognize phaepls of -- membersf the united states senate and members of the united states congress. i come to the floor to talk about the affordable care act. before i do, my job as is the
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president's job is to do what the people of georgia want me to do. and i have office hours when i'm home. i answer my own phone calls. i try to respond to the concerns i have, try to make sure people get referred to the right place. since january 1 i've dealt with nothing but the affordable care act or obamacare and the consequences of that act and what effect it is really having on the american people and the people of georgia, and in particular the two great promises used on the floor of this senate to sell that legislation to the american people. one, if you like your policy, you can keep it. and if you like your doctor, you can keep him or her. both those were clear promises, unequivocal promises. i want to tell twaou stories that came -- i want to tell twaou -- tell you two stories that came to the conclusion that is not correct. the first is from jane. jane writes this is a friend's story. his name is steve. he suffered with multiple
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myeloma for more than ten years. that is a disease that usually kills within five but because of excellent health care, he's been able to survive through his health care plan. through his health care plan with the mayo clinic and been supplied with drugs that have kept him alive. now he's been told the plan will canceled because it does not immediate the minimum standards of the a.c.a.. the drugs that have kept him alive have been determined as experimental. wow, is that not awful. it is not enough for the government taking over our lives and affecting our health care, what about the promise made if we liked our plan we can keep it? steve doesn't have a plan but he still has multiple myeloma. in this story, if you like your doctor you can keep it. ness -- this is from felicia. my husband and i are paying
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individual health care policies as he currently has a small business and i used to own one myself. he's on kaiser h. ph-fpl -- h.m.o. and i'm on a p.p.o. with bluecross blue shield. we are reasonably intelligent people and yet we cannot figure out what is happening with our health care nor does tko* we feel the government has any clue of what is happening with this new legislation. i have only 10% of the doctors available in network to what i had before and my doctors that i now use are not in the network. please stop and repeal this ridiculous legislation. i do not see any evidence that the government can improve my health care or the health care of the american people or any evidence that it has caused anything other than confusion, created wasted time, wasted money and driven americans crazy. these are two e-mails sent to me out of many more i could be
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reading. one of the things it is important for us to understand is the impact of the affordable care act is having a tremendous impact on the american people people. i'll tell you my experience over the christmas holidays. in deese -- december i enrolled into the d.c. health care plan because all of congress was moved into the d.c. health care exchange. i worked hard to see that i could match the plan i had before under the government health care plan. i k-pbt -- couldn't find an exact match but came close. close in everything but the premium. the premium went up 20%. i think everyone my age are experiencing the same type of experience where premiums are going up and up. i would suspect the reason the order to enroll the -- the
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enrollment date behind the election. let me tell you another story that really is poignant and to me kind of broke my heart and fortunately i was able to help with but when i found out about it it did break my heart. it is a story about my grandson jack and his speech therapist. jack is a highly intelligent kid but had a speech therapist, dr. kim. over christmas i got to talk to dr. tim. dr. tim said i don't want to burden you with my personal problem but my youngest daughter has cystic fibrosis and has had it into her teenage years. i had health care coverage up until a week ago when i was notified my health care could no longer pay for the drugs it takes to keep her alive. for anybody in this senate or anybody in america who understands cystic fibrosis, it
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is a debilitating disease that used to people never lived to the age of 21. because of health care, medicare, breakthroughs in pharmacy people live past the age of 21. in fact we had a georgian who lived to age 50. but they cannot live if they don't have a pharmaceutical therapy. there are no substitutes or replacements. this gentleman, this doctor lost his health care reimbursement pharmacy for cystic fibrosis in part because of the kphoebgt. -- affordable care act. these are little stories about americans who are experiencing terrible problems because of the change in our health care system. the promises we made are not being kept. the promises made to sell the affordable care act to the american people and to the congress of the united states are not being kept. it is important for us to understand that cannot stand. and if what happens next year
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happens as i think it will, costs will skyrocket again to the american people, access and affordability will go away or will not be as good as it is. we will have taken a health care system that was the envy of the world and turn it into a health care system that is the biggest problem in the world. mr. president, i want things to work. i want to help the american people. i want them to have access to affordable health care, have access to their doctor and keep their policy. we need to work through that as we go through the tragedies of the implementation in 2014 of the health care act and the obamacare act which today is america's number one personal problem of the average american citizen. mr. president, i'm grateful of the time and i yield back the balance of my time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, i come here to talk about a couple of items. apparently we started in a now second day delay as the majority leader and his caucus decide
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whether or not republicans will be allowed to offer alternatives, to offer amendments to the proposal that is before us, and that is extension of the unemployment insurance act. i was one of six who voted for the motion to proceed for the very purpose of achieving the opportunity to offer ideas that i have had and to allow others on our side of the aisle to offer their ideas as to how we can improve this program and how we ought to address it at this point in our continuing effort to struggle out of the great recession now into its fifth year. unemployment is still high. in my state over 7%, a a number of states. that's unacceptable, particularly in the fifth year after, after a recession. the growth has been so anemic and so tepid that we're just
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sort of staggering our way into a better position. nevertheless, while some people are finding jobs and getting back to work, there are many that aren't. that is a serious subject and that's something we ought to be debating and talking about. unemployment insurance is one of the programs which has been proposed to help those in need. and there are people that are genuinely in need of that help and who made every possible effort to get back to work and for many reasons have not been able to do so. but we also know and it's been documented that there are many people who have taken advantage of this program and basically said i don't have to work hard to get back to work because i'm getting enough support from the government. we have to acknowledge the fact that there are issues that have to be policy issues that have to be discussed as we go forward without just automatically extending a program when we know reforms would make the program
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better. and it would put us in a better position to help people to get back to work and move our economy. we also know that having, working now to just pass a budget for the first time here in several years, to work off of, that the number we agreed on that we wouldn't go over is now being violated. the very first legislative piece that has come before this body violates the budget agreement that was agreed to just a short time ago. and so a number of us would like the opportunity to propose ways to offset the spending if this program goes forward. so the combination of those two things -- reforms that will allow for us to continue to support those who genuinely are unable to find work from those
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who are taking advantage of the program as well as suggestions as to how we can support efforts to more full employment through training programs, through any number of initiatives that my colleagues would like to at least talk about, at least debate and at least have the vote on. we're in the minority here. we're not sure we're going to win any of those sroeplts although -- those votes but if you make persuasive enough arguments, perhaps we will. it appears that we have through this tactic of supporting the motion to proceed, literally put the ball in harry reid's office, in his court, in his caucus court, as to what they want to
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do. we went through the year 2013, and since july republicans have been offered only four amendment total for all the things done in the last six months of this year. that is not how the senate works or is supposed to work. that is a dictatorial dictate by the majority leader that is unprecedented. in 200 years of operation, or more of operation of this united states senate. but i also want to comment -- and so we're waiting for that decision, and obviously that decision will have a bearing on my position on this particular issue. i would also, though, like to comment on the fact that lately we've been hearing a lot from the president about income inequality and i anticipate we'll be hearing a lot more as
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we head to the 2014 elections. there will be a debate on this and i hope it will be a debate that allows both sides to look at this in a serious way and try to find ways to address the issue. but if we do that, i think it's important that we understand that the president's signature accomplishment -- the affordable care act, kpwoepl -- obamacare as it is called, is contributing to the problem of income inequality. so any debate on that which we'll likely hear much more of as we approach the november election, any debate on that to be factually accurate and to be truthful needs to incorporate conversation about the impact of obamacare. as recently as 2012 we were told
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by the president that the health insurance premiums paid by small businesses and individuals -- quote -- "will go down." even though the administration has admitted that many americans will pay more for health care because of the obama law, this week in the latest report on health spending trends from c.m.s., the centers for medicare and medicaid, rose from what the americans are paying in twitter. that is -- are paying in 2012. too many are saying the reason for this is the affordable care act. had we not passed the affordable care act, this would not have happened. pearptsly, they didn't read the rest of the reported. the report also states that the provisions in the affordable care act had minimal impact on
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total national health speppedding. so while the administration may claim that their bill -- obamacare -- is lowering overall health spending, the report says it has only had a minimal impact. there are reforms being made through the private sector, through the providers in terms of more efficient, more effect:15 ways to deliver health care -- more effective ways to deliver health care. that's not operating due to the health care act. the health care act is contributing to the problem of inequality. many americans are experiencing despite what the president has said higher premiums, paying outrageous deductibles when they purchase coverage through the obamacare exchanges. now, let's bring this down to the personal level, because i've been receiving hundreds -- actually, thousands of e-mails, phone calls, letters, comments
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that i hear back home from hoosiers who basically have said this ain't working. they're sure not working for me. but i want to bring it down to the personal level so we can understand what individuals and families are going through at this particular time, with this mandate imposed upon them relative to their health care coverage. thomas from inwrote to me and said that he went on the obamacare exchange to take a look at health insurance plans that would be available to him and he was, as he said, and i quote, "shocked to find that it was at least $200 a month" -- that's $2,400 a year -- "more me than he had been quoted a few months before from a broker. so he went to an insurance broker who said, well, under the affordable care act, you will pay this. and then a couple of months later -- because he was deciding whether or not he could forward
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that -- he went back on the exchange and said, this is going to cost you $2,400 more than just it would have a couple months ago. he added, and he quote, "i have thought about just going without insurance," as we know many individuals are thinking about and have decided not to sign up for this program. and of course the program is built financially on the fact that millions will sign up, and that's not happening, and i predict that's going to break the program, break the back of the program. and it's not just my prediction. it is those analysts and insurance companies and histories whwhoand otherswho ha. my family suggested that i shouldn't do that. so the affordable care act has created a terrible quandary for me, he said. "at this point, i feel as if the federal government is like a
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mean big brother making my life miserable." william from granger, indiana, e-mailed me to tell me that his wife who works as a part-time nurse, no longer is offered health care because she is part-time and the law specifies that if you work under a certain amount of house, the employer does not have to provide insurance, and that's exactly what the employer has dofnl don. so william then decided, well, of coursokay, i'll have to go ie exchanges and find insurance for my wife and family. and he discovered that their premiums will rise to $19,076 a year. he goes ton say, "so much for if you like your plan, if you like your doctor, your costs will go down by $2,500."
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the president has said, your costs are going to go down by an average of $2,500 a year. whicwilliam's costs increased or 75% a year i randy told me "i've been offered insurance through work at a cost-of-living adjustment of th 80 a week. i then checked, the affordable care act, had had been given a quote of $45000 month. i work a minimum-wage job and work as many hours as i can to get by. after taxes and child support, neither option is an option that i can afford. i also can't even afford pay the penalty payment. these are just a few of the hundreds if not thousands of hoosier comments that i have heard from people who are
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experiencing sticker shock when they search for a so-called affordable plan under obamacare. i don't know whether these people are liberals, conservatives, voters, nonvote nonvoterrerses. these are just people who live moo my state who say this thing is killing us. all these exes, multiplied by hundreds if not thousands, are contributing to the inequality that the president is talking about. the inescapable triage truth is that the democrats forced an unwanted, unpopular, and unread -- a famous quote from then-house speaker nancy pelosi, "you've got to pass the house bill so we can find out tbheas it." and we're finding out what's in it. an unwanted, unpopular and you read 2,000-plus page,
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one-size-fits-all dictated by one party without any support, without any contribution allowed by the minority, questioning whether this is the best way to deal with health care issues. jamming this thing through on christmas eve day 2009, it's turned out to be a disastrous christmas gift for the american people. families across our country are being forced to redirect money they would have used to pay rent, to help their children attend school, to put food on the table, to pay the electric bills. they're finding that many can't even do that. so, as we discuss the issue of income equality -- it appears the president is going to want to do that throughout this
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coming election year -- let's not pretend that obamacare is helping the situation. it's not. and we need to face up to the fact that the affordable care act -- oh, i wish -- i'll bet the writers of this bill wish if they could do it over again, they wish they had not used the word "affordable." they can call it the health care act or health care act for american people, whatever. if they went back and rewrote it i bet they'd drop the word "affordable" based oge on the ft of what this health care bill is. and i suspect that they would have wanted to pass this in a bipartisan way so that at this point in time they wouldn't have to take full responsibility for this act. too many hardworking american
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families are paying more, not less, for health care because of obamacare, and it is contributing to the inequality that the president continues to talk about. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i'd ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, over the last few days our friends across the aisle have been telling the american people that we have a choice when it comes to the extension of long-term unemployment benefits.
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on the one hand they're saying we can do exactly what the president, senator reid and his allies want, which is to extend benefits for three months at a cost of $6.5 billion that we'll have to borrow from somebody. or we'll do nothing at all. well, mr. president, i'm here to suggest that that is a false choice, as president obama likes to say from time to time. a false choice. we can do better than that. as a matter of fact, several of my republican colleagues have offered their suggestions. i have ph my hand a -- i have in my hand a list of 23 amendments that would deal with everything from improving access to workforce training to finding a way to pay for this money that would otherwise have to be borrowed from the chinese or other creditors of the united states and added to our $17.3 trillion debt. in other words there,'s a lot of
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good ideas here that if given an opportunity debate them and offer these amendments and actually do what the senate used to do. as the republican leader said yesterday we actually used to have committees that voted on amendments, then passed bills that cape to the floor. and we you'd to have an open amendment process where people would offer their amendments and we would debate them and vote on them. that is a novel idea. that is called legislating. that is what the legislative branch, congress, is supposed to be doing but that's not what we have been doing. so i hope that the majority leader who basically is the traffic cop for the senate floor, he's the one who determines whether or not we have an opportunity to have this sort of fulsome debate to offer these constructive, bipartisan ideas to reform our unemployment
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compensation system and help grow the economy, help the private sector create jobs and get more people back to work so they don't have to depend on extended unemployment insurance. or if they do find themselves in difficult circumstances, as many americans, unfortunately have, that they can go back to school using pell grants, for example, to go to our community colleges which do a fantastic job on helping people learn new skills that make them a good fit for the good jobs, of which there are many but there's not enough of the skilled workforce qualified for those jobs. just to give the senate a flavor for some of the ideas, my colleague from oklahoma, senator coburn, who is always full of a lot of ideas, he's filed an amendment to make sure people don't claim unemployment insurance and social security
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disability benefits simultaneously. at the same time claim disability benefits and claim unemployment benefits at the same time. if there is a case of double dipping, that would seem to be it. and it's an abuse of the system. he's also filed an amendment that would prevent millionaires and billionaires from receiving unemployment checks. i know it's hard to believe, but people with incomes over $1 million or more have claimed nearly $21 million worth of unemployment benefits in a single year. s-pbd that unbelievable? what an -- isn't that unbelievable? what an abuse, what an insult to the people who are in dire straits and who do need help to know that there are people gaming the system either by double dipping or being millionaires, claiming unemployment benefits. again, we've borrowed $250 billion for paying these
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extended unemployment benefits since 2008, and here are some millionaires and billionaires who are gauge the -- gaming the system to their benefit. why wouldn't we want to tpha*eubgs, have a vote on -- fix that, have a vote on those good ideas by senator coburn. senator scott filed a commonsense amendment that would define full time employment as a 40 hour workweek, for the purposes of obamacare. the presiding officer, since he walked in, i'll pick on him, my friend from maryland remembers we had a number of leaders of organized labor that came to the white house and said that obamacare is turning full-time work into part-time work because of the penalties associated with the employer mandate and the like, many employers are shifting full time work into
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part time work. so this is not just a concern on this side of the aisle. it is a pwaud concern that's -- it is a broad concern that's impacting a lot people. i remember recently being in tyler, texas, at a diner where the owner said he had to put a single mom on a 30 hour workweek in order to avoid the penalties from obamacare. she had to get a second part-time job because of obamacare and its unintended consequences. senator scott has an amendment that will address that problem. i hope the majority leader will rethink his long stand position of shutting out any ideas not just on this side of the aisle but the other side of the aisle as well, as the republican leader pointed out yesterday. in addition, our colleague from
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indiana, senator coats, has several ideas. one would offset the extension of unemployment benefits by delaying the individual and employer mandates under obamacare until 2014. the president and this administration under its own initiative, i'm looking hard to find where they had the authority but they never did, they delayed the employer mandate for a year on their own. this would take the money saved from delaying the individual employer mandate and use that to pay for the extension of unemployment benefits. another amendment would offset the cost of this extension by requiring people to provide a social security number before they claim the earned income -- excuse me. before they claim the child tax credit. all it would do is to make them provide a social security number to make sure that we root out fraud and buse in the child --
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fraud and abuse in the child tax credit claims. it would be save billions of dollars and allow to us pay for this sh-rt -- this extension of long-term unemployment. unemployment insurance covers people for up to half a year but over the last five years congress has extend that up to 99 weeks, two years. this is supposed spob -- to be an emergency program and thankfully the economy is starting to show some signs of improvement and growth. what we need to do is get off of this temporary emergency measure and get back to normal circumstances and to try to find twaoeuz pay -- find ways to pay our bill and make sure people don't abuse the american
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taxpayer by gaming the system and we continue to look for ways to help people learn the skills they need in order to get the good, high-paying jobs that exist, among other things. here's another idea. our colleague from new hampshire, senator ayotte, has filed an amendment that would restore the military pension benefits. this was taken out of the murray-ryan bill that passed before we left for christmas, and i think it's fair to say there was broad bipartisan support for restoring those cuts to the military pensions. and senator ayotte's amendment would do that. all of these amendments, mr. president, would deserve debate which i'm trying in some small way to provide here. but others have their india have their way of talking about it, and they also deserve a vote. again, the majority leader,
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senator reid, is the traffic cop on the senate floor. and as senator mcconnell pointed out yesterday, the senate has been radically transformed from a place where we used to have, we used to be able to claim the senate as the greatest deliberative body on the phraepbd but no more. -- on the planet but no more but we can return to the way the senate used to be by having this constructive, bipartisan, fulsome discussion and votes on good ideas and make legislation better and not settle for something less. well, i said that -- and it's true -- that senator have a right to debate and offer legislation. now i'm not sure that many people across america have thought very deeply about what that means. this isn't about the presiding
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officer's rights as a united states senator or my rights as a united states senator but this is about the rights of the people i represent because when i'm shut out of the process, when i can't offer ideas about how to improve legislation they're shut out as well, and that's wrong. the presiding -- the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. cornyn: i was unaware that was a time limit. but i would ask for an additional five minutes. officer without objection. mr. cornyn: thank you. so these amendments represent just a small sample of the ideas that our side of the aisle have put afford to help the long-term unemployed and to separate job creation and to grow the economy. something that i know we all want. we all want it, so why not -- let's talk about it. why not let us vote on these items. why not let's get the senate back into position where we have the give-and-take of ideas and where we come up with the best
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for the american people? a couple or amendments my colleagues from ohio and kansas, senator portman and senator roberts, have each introduced legislation that would increase accountability and much stronger safeguards in the u.s. regulatory system. religions are what the bureaucracy does. you can't vote for them -- or against them. you can't hold them accountable that way. and they're out of control. if you want to know why those bills are so important, last year alone the obama administration imposed $112 billion worth of new regulations on the u.s. economy. $112 billion worth of new reconciliations in 2013 alone. and our colleague from alaska, senator murkowski, who's the ranking member of the energy committee, is rightly concerned about the misguided impact of regulations on our energy dry, primarily the -- on our energy industry, primarily the oil and
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gas industry. she's drafted a bold plan for reforming the oil and gas industry that would promote economic growth, job creation, national security, and responsible stewardship of our environment. i want to recognize as well in conclusion in terms of this summary of some of the ideas, 23 of which i have on this card, but i'll just mention a few of them, the ideas of our colleague from utah, senator mike lee, and recognize his efforts to reform our dysfunctional tax system in a way that supports middle-class families who are working hard to provide for their children. we should agree, as senator lee has advocated, that the tax reform should aim not just to simplify the tax code and fuel job growth but also to ease the burden on hardworking, middle-class families. so, mr. president, there are a lot of great ideas out there.
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i can't think of a better time to talk about them than this, when the president of the united states has made a priority over income inequality, which unfortunately is the worst -- become war worse under his administration, not better, further exacerbated by burdens like obamacare, which we find sought just a bundle of broken promises, when it comes to, if you like what you have, you can keep it. we find out that is not true. but there are a lot of great ideas that we could, working together, in the interests of the american people agree on that would actually improve their economic situation, that would help restore the american dream. but what is the american dream to somebody who has been out of work and can't find work? well, it's a disappointment to say the least. so we need to help people not
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maintain their dependency on a government benefit in perpetuity but to liberate them from that dependency, to help them regain their self-respect and sense of dignity by finding work and providing for themselves and their families and to live their version of the american dream. and in the process, we all benefit. the federal government can pay its bills because people are paying taxes because they have good jobs, and america will be the same america we inherited from our parents and grandparents and hopefully we will make it better for the next generation and beyond. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i have three unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent this these requests be agreed to and these requests be printed in the
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record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i have taken the floor of the united states senate -- and when i was a member of the house on the floor of the house -- to talk about circumstances that are occurring somewhere in the world where people are being killed, displaced, people are being uprooted simply because of their ethnicity. ethnic cleansing has occurred around the world, and i have taken the opportunity, put a spotlight on it inen a effort to say -- on it, in an effort to say that the civilized world needs to put eangdz to that typt an end to that tim type of crime against humanity. america's priority needs to be a leader in the world to prevent ethnic cleansing. many of us believed after world war ii that that would be the -- that the world would never allow
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again to see circumstances where peoplpeople were killed simply because of the ethnic community that they belonged to. i've talked about bosnia, rwanda, darfur, syria, and now, mr. president, we see the same thing happening again in the south sudan. i just came from a hearing of the senate foreign relations committee that was convened on the crisis in the south sudan. two witnesses, linda thomas green felled, and the honorable nancy lindbergh, assistant administrator bureau of democracy conflict and humanitarian assistance, is giving an update to the senate foreign relations committee as to the circumstances in the south sudan and what we can do to try to bring about a resolution. i rise today to discuss the deteriorating circumstances in the south sudan. as some of my colleagues may know, ongoing political tensions
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between forces loyal to the president of the sudan and those to the former president coupled with ethnic tensions erupted on december 156789 i join the president and secretary kerry in calling for an immediate end to the violence in the south sudan. currently it is estimated that nearly 200,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict with another 32,000 having fled to neighboring states. the u.n. estimates that thousands of sudanese people have been killed since december 15. inow, mr. president, let me remind my colleagues that three years ago today the people of the south sudan starting a voting process that led to later that year their independence as the youngest country -- new country in the world. our u.s. ambassador susan paige has remained in juba along with a security detail and minimum
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security personnel. i want to thank her for the courage to be able to remain in the south sudan so we have our leadership on the ground to try to help the people. i applaud her bravery and sacrifice and those that are with her. the worsening violence has spurred the humanitarian crisis. and the president nominated ambassador booth to be our ambassador that region to try to get a peace process started. he's currently in ethiopia trying to get the international community to respond to a political solution to the south sudan. the international community has responded rapidly, including by working to significantly expand the size of the u.n. mission in the south sudan, but since the evacuation of the northern aid workers, most humanitarian agencies and the international n.g.o.'s are heavily reliant on brave south sudanese staff who put their lives at risk to help their people. there are some -- these are large numbers for the country of
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sudan, the number of people displaced, the number of people killed. let me share with my colleagues one of many examples of the crisis, how it's affected people in that region. i recently learned that one local staff person from an american n.g.o. was rounded up along with seven members of his family and taken to a police station in juba. he ultimately escaped to the u.n. compound but his family was killed, along with more than 200 others. he is from the ethnic group which now lives in fear of ethnic targeting by members of the country's security force from another ethnic group, the dinka. media reports that individuals in uniforms have entered the u.n. base in several locations and forcibly removed civilians taking shelter dl. on december 21, two u.n. peacekeepers were killed after a
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group attacked a u.n. peacekeeping base that was sheltering 20 civilians. there is no safe harbor today in the south sudan. at the u.n. -- if the u.n. base can be overrun and people killed because of their ethnicity, the international community must respond. i remain extremely concerned that the reports out of the south sudan, all of which suggest serious crimes against humanity are occurring in the country. the world cannot stand by and beabear witness to another crime against humanity. we must do all we can. mr. president, our first priority to get peace on the ground, to stop the killings, so people can live in peace. we need to work were the international community so humanitarian aid can get to the people who need t that's very challenging considering that n.g.o.'s, international n.g.o.'s
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cannot operate today in the south sudan. and we must hold accountable those who have committed crimes against humanity. we've said it over and over again. unless we hold accountable those who have perpetrated these atrocities, we will see it again and again and again. the united states leadership is critically important to make sure that we document what has taken place and that we bring to justice those who are responsible for the crimes that have been committed. there's no question that the solution to the crisis in the south sudan must be political, not military. we need that. south sudan sa sudan is at a cr. it must pursue a path of peace and reconciliation. i am encouraged that president kerr and former president mew sahara have sent negotiators to
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ethiopia. while these talks talks are a good first step, both sirs must be committed to negotiating in good faith. it is my hope that these talks can bring about a bright future so many south sudanes sudanese e for. the people of the south sudan deserve to understand the true meaning of safety and security, of peace and prosperity. the united states stands with the people of the south sudan through these difficult times. we must pledge to continue to support those who seek peace, democracy, human rights and justice for all of the citizens of the world's newest nation. with that, mr. president, i would i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent further proceedings under the quorum call be suspended and that i address the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, my colleague from south carolina will shortly join me on the floor, but i will make some remarks while i'm waiting. and, mr. president, when the senator from south carolina joins me, i ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with the senator from south carolina. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: some of us were here in the senate ten years ago in 2004 when u.s. troops led two major offensives against al qaeda and other militants in the iraqi city of fallujah. some of us remember how 146 of our brave men and women in uniform lost their lives and more than 1,000 were wounded. those fights were some of the bloodiest and toughest battles
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since the vietnam war. success was costly, but success we did. and here we are 10 years later and al qaeda fighters have once again raised their black flags over fallujah and they're battling to control other parts of iraq. this tragic setback is leaving many of our brave war veterans and those who risked their lives and lost their friends fighting in fail lou should questioning what their sacrifice was worth and, sadly, they find themselves agreeing with congressman duncan hunter a former marine who fought in fallujah and i quote, "we did our job," said congressman hunter. "we did what we were asked do and we won. every single man and woman who fought in irk, nuclea in iraq, n those cities, feels a kick in the gut for all they did because this president decided to squander their sacrifice.
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"president obama frequently referred to a -- quote -- "responsible withdrawal from iraq" which was based on "leaving behind a stable and representative government in baghdad" and "avoiding a power vacuum that terrorists could exploit." the president's deputy national security advisor stated in 2012 that "iraq" -- and i am not making this up -- "iraq is more prosperous than at any time in recent history." based on the president's own mark,the president is falling shofort its own goasms the illusion of a stable and repeat government has been shattered by increasing sectarian tension and it's clear that terrorists are exploiting the power vacuum left behind. the obama administration blames iraqis for failing to grant the necessary privileges and immunities for u.s.a. force presence beyond 2011.
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this is misleading. in fact, false, because as we saw firsthand, the administration never undertook the necessary diplomatic effort to reach such an agreement. the senator from south carolina and i traveled to iraq in may 2011 only several months away from the deadline that our commanders had set for the beginning of the withdrawal. we met wul the leaders of iraq's many plail blocks and heard a common message during all of these private conversations. iraqi leaders recognized that it was in their country's interest to maintain a limited number of u.s. troops to continue training and assisting iraqi security forces beyond 2011. but when we asked ambassador jeffrey and the commander of the u.s. forces in iraq lloyd austin while in a meeting with prime minister maliki how many u.s. troops


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